Lição 3 ~ Third Lesson
O que aconteceu?
What happened?

>>Brazilian Portuguese and European Portuguese

This is the third lesson in Portuguese Online's Lições. These lessons are written for moderate beginners who have already taken something like the Para começar courses offered on this site. You must first have a solid understanding of basic phrases and pronunciation and have completed lessons 1 and 2. On with the fun!

*When you see "B "P, this means that you can click to hear how the word or phrase sounds in Brazil (Brazilian dialect) and Portugal (European dialect).



João has just given a sad Adeus! to his old friend who preferred dançar num clube to dance in a club rather than revel in the days of their youth over a cup of hot café (did you notice how we created a sentence with both an -ar verb and a contracted preposition?). Their meeting was abrupt and left our friend quite bewildered. As we join him, he's muddling over the past day's events in his mind to determine exactly what went wrong...

João  (deep in thought) O que aconteceu? Não sei. Falo com ele e depois me diz adeus! Porque não quer ir comigo ao café? Não sei bem.
O David Desculpe... outra vez... mas pode me fazer um favor?
João   Claro, sim. Então fala português?
O David Falo, sim. Sou agente e venho dos Estados Unidos.
João   Não acredito...
O David Escuta, por favor. O amigo que chegou...
João   Algo tem acontecido, não é?
O David Mais ou menos, mas vai dar tudo certo.
João   Você está certo?
O David Estou, sim.
João   Muito bom. Onde está?
O David

Escuta! Não é a mesma pessoa.

João   (pauses) Hoje não está nada bem....

This is a dialogue you'll need to conquer. It's also a dialogue with a twist. You won't do that now, since much of what you see in it reflects information you'll be given later.

Read through the dialogue outra vez, e depois and then set it to the side. After going through this lesson once, come back to it. At that time, make an English translation, using the explanations above as a guide. It is difficult, but after that you'll say "I understand everything much better agora!"


Practicing the language in action

More practice, more perfection. That's why where here.

João looks very confused, even discouraged. He doesn't know what to do. He knows that he has one friend he can trust, someone he can confide in: you. You are that someone. You are that alguém. You ask yourself "I am alguém?" Ah, I'm someone! Sou alguém, sim! Say it again! You shouldn't feel like you're nobody, because you're not ninguém. You're alguém.

Now that you have confidence in yourself, João is ready to take his problemas to you. You ask him "O que aconteceu, João?" He just sighs. You insist:

João! o que aconteceu? ...
Não, escuta!...
que aconteceu? ...

Não quer falar contigo? He does want to talk with you, right? Quer falar contigo, o é? You stop for a moment, but you're sure of yourself. You're determined. Quer falar comigo!

Mas você está certo? (ou certa, se você é mulher). Are you sure?

Estou certo, sim! (ou Estou certa, sim!)
Sim, estou!
Estou, sim!

He says nada aconteceu. Nothing happened? Sim. Nada. Mas o João está certo? You ask him again. Está certo? His answer: estou, sim. And again... não sei. Aha! Algo must be wrong here. Alguém isn't telling the truth!

You think to yourself that something has happened. Algo tem acontecido. You believe it when you say those words to yourself. Acredito, you say...

Acredito que algo tem acontecido.
Algo aconteceu.
Sim, algo aconteceu!

You're already a sleuth! Mas you've only managed to figure out that João tem um problema. Tem He does (literally here He has - notice that we don't even need a sim).You should reread this Brain-Drilling after you've completed the lesson, and at that time we'll see how slick your skills really are.


>>Understanding the Language 

There are those times when you want to say something, but you don't really want to say it... You'd like to leave someone with the impression that you know what you're talking about, but the exact numbers and figures are too vague in your head. This section will give you a few tricks to keep up your sleeves in those tight situations.

These nouns and adjectives are simply a way of grouping or simplifying an idea, but often carry the side-effect of mystery or ambiguity. If I ask, "is anyone here?"  the meaning is quite general. Here are the basic Portuguese with their English equivalents:

Positive, Affirmative (+):

O Grupo ~ The Group Português Inglês
As Respostas ~ Answers (+) sim yes, certainly
As Pessoas ~ People (+) alguém someone, anyone
As Pessoas ~ People (+) todo o mundo* everyone (lit.: the whole world)
As Coisas ~ Things (+) algo, alguma coisa something, anything
As Coisas ~ Things (+) tudo (noun), todo (-a/-os/-as) (adj.) everything (noun), all (adjective)
Comparações ~ Comparisons (+) ou...ou either...or
Os Adje(c)tivos ~ Adjectives (+) algum, alguma, alguns, algumas* any, some

Negative: (-)

O Grupo ~ The Group Português Inglês
As Respostas ~ Answers (-) não no, not
As Pessoas ~ People (-) ninguém no one
As Coisas ~ Things (-) nada, nenhuma coisa nothing
Comparações ~ Comparisons (-) nem...nem neither...nor
Os Adje(c)tivos ~ Adjectives (-) nenhum, nenhuma, nenhuns, nenhumas* none, not any

* The phrase todo o mundo means all the world or the whole world (mundo (m.) world), but you'll hear toda a gente for everybody in Portugal. Gente (f.) means people. Notice how todo all changes to the feminine toda to reflect the gender of the noun. That's because it is an adjective.

* Unfortunately, algum any and nenhum none adjectives, so you must learn to use them properly (in agreement with the noun's number and gender). Isto porque dizemos This is why we say alguma coisa any + thing and not algum coisa (coisa (f.) thing is not a masculine noun). These words do, however, follow the nice pattern of their relative, um (uma, uns, umas) a, an, one.

Nada nothing and algo anything, something are shorter and catchier than their longer counterparts nenhuma coisa and alguma coisa (literally not one + thing and any one + thing). The longer phrases will work best in situations where you're asking about a specific quantity or material substance. The plurals, nenhumas coisas and algumas coisas, start to sound a little specific and aren't as common, like some things. Algo and nada, like everything and nothing, don't have plural forms.
>example mais alguma coisa? anything else (to eat)? (you're actually saying more any-one thing?)

Please do not feel overwhelmed by the chart! These are useful words that are introducing themselves to you. They're great little words. Take advantage of them, using as many as possible wherever you see fit!

One last note on the use of the negative words: USE DOUBLE-NEGATIVES IN OUR LANGUAGE! Unlike formal English (which constantly corrects us for making the error), you may negate to your heart's most fantastic desires.

>example Por exemplo for exampleNão faz nada! He doesn't do anything! (literally: He doesn't do nothing; even more literally: not + (he) does + nothing). Just accept this, practice it, and, I assure you, it will flow smoothly in no time.


We've learned to handle verbs, we've fought through prepositions, conquered nouns, and devastated adjectives. But we've only learned the most basic of pronouns (I, you, he, she, it, we, and they). In Portuguese, it would be easier to avoid these nasty little words forever, but have no fear. We'll get through them together.

We will look at a new type of pronoun in this section: reflexive pronouns.

Reflexives are relatively easy to handle for an English speaker. We use them when the pronoun both gives and receives the action. They are the -self words (for example, I wash myself).

Nominative Pronouns Reflexive Pronouns (Portuguese) Reflexive Pronouns (English)
eu me myself
tu te yourself (informal; Portugal only)
você/o senhor/a senhora se yourself (informal, formal)
ele/ela se himself/herself/itself
nós nos ourselves
vós vos* yourselves (plural, archaic)
vocês/os senhores/as senhoras se themselves
eles/elas se themselves (all-female only)
* How many times must I tell you that this word is archaic?

Charts may look nice and neat, but they don't tell the whole story. Let's see these words in action.

lavar-se (to wash one'sself)
me lavo (also in Portugal: lavo-me)
te lavas (Pt. lavas-te)
se lava (Pt. lava-se)
nos lavamos (Pt. lavamo-nos)
**os lavais (Pt. lavai-os)
se lavam (Pt. lavam-se)

Me lavo as mãos I wash my hands (do NOT use the literal translation lavo minhas mãos).
(Eles) se lavam as mãos They are washing their hands. (Portugal: lavam-se as mãos or eles se lavam as mãos)
Note that, rather than say I wash my hands, we use the reflexive pronoun me myself to say I wash myself the hands. This is sensible, since washing your hands is something you do to yourself (what we call a reflexive action!).

If you look through a Portuguese dictionary, you will see a number of verbs listed with a default form infinitive + -se. You may be thinking to yourself: why, why do they complicate the language? I'm finally understanding these -ar, -er and -ir verbs in the present! WHY must they add ANOTHER ending to these verbs? The intention is to make your life easier! These verbs tell you right away that whatever it is you're trying to say in Portuguese needs one of these reflexive pronouns. We call them reflexive verbs, even if the same verb can be used without a reflexive pronoun.

Lavar-se to wash oneself is a reflexive verb because of the reflexive pronoun. The verb is still an -ar verb, with the same endings as any other -ar verb, the same endings as lavar to wash.

Lavo o carro
I wash the car, I'm washing the car (lavar to wash)
mas but: ME lavo I wash myself (lavar-se to wash oneself)
Lavam o carro They wash the car, They're washing the car
mas: Se lavam They're washing themselves, they're washing up

Believe it or not, you are already very familiar with one of these reflexive verbs (yes, I am aware that these lições really like to pull these kinds of stunts). It's chamar-se. Chamar means to call (on the telefone (m.) telephone, you can also telefonar to telephone, to call, to make a phone call). We can translate chamar-se as to call oneself, but we usually use it to ask for or give a person's nome (m.) name. Eu me chamo means I call myself or my name is. Como se chama? What's you're name or How do you call yourself? .

In Brazil, we really like to keep those pronouns before the verb (me lavo rather than lavo-me), because those hyphens and attached pronouns get a little messy. We will, of course, see them in the written language, especially in older or in more formal documents, but words like lavar-se stay in a dictionary. In context (that is, outside of a dictionary), Brazilians prefer something like para se lavar to wash up, for washing up, in order to wash oneself or even (ele) quer se chamar... he wants to be called/named...

The Portuguese (living in Portugal) still say lavo-me whenever they can. There is a general rule in the dialect of Portugal that these pronouns can't stand at the beginning of a sentence, so we have to say Lavo-me. Can we get around this rule? Certainly! Try using the pronouns you've already come to know well: I, you, he, she, it, we, and they. If I say Eu me lavo for I wash myself, you can't fault me anymore! Still, realize that I am now stressing the pronoun I over everything else.


One of the most common uses of these reflexive pronouns we just learned is to say that an action is done without really saying who did it. This is sometimes called the passive voice since the verb (action) has no true active origin. All of the reflexives assume a subject (me myself, nos ourselves), right? Well, that's not the case. There is a very general reflexive pronoun we can use to complete this task. That word is
se himself, herself, itself, yourself, themselves, yourselves, any other unknown -self or -selves... (get the idea?).

O trabalho se faz na garagem
The work is being done in the garage.
A roupa já se lava The clothing is already () being washed.
Os cachorros se lavam The dogs are being hosed down (well, washed at least).
As coisas se fazem Things are being done.

What are we really saying here? Try to wrap your mind around it:
The work does itself in the garage.
The clothing already washes itself.
The dogs wash themselves.
The things do themselves.

It works, and this way of implying that an action has no specific origin might even strike you as a novel concept. It's been around in Portuguese and many of the other Romance languages for quite some time now.

But that doesn't sound like a real passive, does it? Since there is a grammatical subject (the work, the clothing, the dogs, the things), we don't call the se verbs "true passives". A passive has no real subject, no origin. It is a loner, coming from nowhere and ending up who knows where.

This "real passive" isn't present in Portuguese or English, but we can get very close by doing the same thing in both languages: turn the sentence around and stick in the verb be (am, is or are). The Portuguese verb is, of course, ser to be (the "default" be; remember that estar also means be in temporary situations).

If I have a sentence like the man washes the dog, but I wish to eliminate the subject, leaving no trace of its role in the sentence, I turn the whole thing around. The dog is my subject. The action is still wash, but it needs to be done to the dog, not by the dog. Hmm... aha! I've got it: the dog is washed!

Let's do the same thing in Portuguese. But, wait, we don't know how to say washed. This is called a past participle. We usually form it in English by adding -ed (walk becomes walked) to our root verb. And in Portuguese? Much the same way:

Past Participles

-ar verbs -er verbs -ir verbs
-ar -er -ir
becomes becomes also becomes
-ado -ido -ido

Lavar wash has the form lavado washed, and chamar to call has chamado called. What about beber to drink? That's bebido. And acontecer to happen? Why, that's acontecido happened!

The -d is the mark of the past participle in both languages. The -o is our default ending, and the vowels -a- or -i- are there to match the verb classes (we call them thematic vowels, meaning that the "a" is the theme of the -ar verb, "i" is the theme of the -ir verb, etc.). That -o should change if our noun is different, right? How should it change? Masculine, feminine, singular, plural... sound familiar?

We add our trusty verb ser into the mix, and we have a passive.

O trabalho é completado na garagem The work is completed in the garage. (completar to complete)
A roupa já é lavadaThe clothing is already () washed.
Os cachorros são lavados The dogs are washed.
As coisas são lavadas Things are washed.

If we want to ease in a secondary subject, do it with por for, by, in exchange for.


A roupa não é lavada pelo cachorro The clothing isn't washed by the dog.

This form of the passive with ser + past participle (-ado/-ido) is less common than reflexive se in everyday speech, but it does its job well, especially in written text.

In Portugal, o (m.) is a better word for dog. The plural is a little strange to you right now: es.

Let's review what we just learned, because you probably noticed that we touched on events in the past with the past participle, even if our sentences pretend to deal with the present. If the dog is washed, we don't need to worry that the action took place in the past. Right now, we're looking at a washed dog in the present. The passive does use a past participle, and we should be conscious of that one word's relation to the past.

O livro é escrito. The book is written.
O homem é morto. The man is dead.
As mulheres são convidadas. Women are invited. (convidar to invite)

We also learned to use por by in these sentences:

O livro é escrito por Camões. The book is written by Camoens.
As mulheres são convidadas pela família. The women are invited by the family.

Another common way that you learned to express the passive voice uses se oneself + verb. There is no past action inherent in these Portuguese sentences, but we still use past participles when translating them into English:

O livro se escreve. The book is written (literally the book writes itself).
As mulheres se convidam. The women are invited (literally the women invite themselves).

This form obviously implies no active agent (who wrote it?; who invited them?), and is used frequently in the language.

Like escrito written for escrever to write and morto dead for morrer to die, there are a number of irregular past participles. Here is a list of some more common ones:

abrir (to open)= aberto opened
(English: aperture)

dizer (to say, to tell) = dito said
(English: dictate, edict, dictum)
escrever (to write) = escrito written
(English: script)
fazer (to do, to make) = feito done, made
(English: fact, perfect, parfait)
morrer (to die) = morto dead
(English: mortal)
pôr (to put, to place) = posto put
(English: post)
romper (to break) = roto broken
(English: romp, corrupt)
solver (to [re]solve) = solto solved, resolved
(English: resolve, result)

ver (to see) = visto seen
(English: vista)

vir (to come) = vindo come
(English: convene, advent)

A few of these past participles are regular but correspond to an irregular adjective. One of the most common is acender (to turn on; acendido turned on, but aceso/a/os/as as an adjective: a luz é acesa the light is lit, the light is turned on). This word is related to the English words incendiary and incense, where we can also see the change from cend- (Latin burn) to ce(n)s- (Latin burnt).

Through a process linguists call "analogy", some of these irregular past participles stand side-by-side with or are even being replaced by regular past participles. Like acendido for acender, these past participles are built from the infinitive to look like the expected regular past participle, and the existing irregular past participle often takes on a secondary role (like the adjective aceso) or is completely replaced (for example, the verb encarregar to place in charge (of), to charge with had the past participle encarregue, but that form has been ousted by the expected encarregado). In the above list, morrer to die is an excellent example, since its regular past participle morrido dead, constructed by analogy, has become more common than morto dead (but, again, morto makes for a great noun or adjective: os mortos the dead (people)).

>>We can also use ter to have with -ado/-ido words
This is a more common use of the past participle than with
ser. It corresponds to the English to have done (substituting any other past participle for the word "done"). Remember the forms of ter to have that we learned? Review how the past participle works if it's not yet clear to you, and then look at (olhar = to look at) these examples.

tenho feito os deveres
I have already done my homework(s) (dever (m.) = duty, task).
Temos lavado os cachorros We have washed the dogs.
O mau homem tem morrido duas vezes! The bad guy has died two times!
Vocês o têm conhecido?Have all of you met him?

>>Or we can use the Pretérito
And what if those long constructions with ser and ter and past participles start to overwhelm us? The preterit is our one-word solution. It's the "past indicative", which tells us that it comes at a price. The present indicative was our way of giving an action in the present, but to use it, we had to rip off the infinitive -r ending, take the verb stem, and add new endings to it. This pretérito is a way of expressing something that happened once in the past (he did it, you loved it).

A Pessoa -ar (falar) -er (vender) -ir (abrir)
eu -ei (falei) -i (vendi) -i (abri)
tu -aste (falaste) -este (vendeste) -iste (abriste)
você/o senhor/a senhora -ou (falou) -eu (vendeu) -iu (abriu)
ele/ela -ou (falou) -eu (vendeu) -iu (abriu)
nós -ámos (falámos) -emos (vendemos) -imos (abrimos)
vós -astes (falastes) -estes (vendestes) -istes (abristes)
vocês/os senhores/as senhoras -aram (falaram) -eram (venderam) -iram (abriram)
eles/elas -aram (falaram) -eram (venderam) -iram (abriram)

Remember that this tense is indicative of a one-time event in the past.

Você falou à mulher? You talked to the woman? (falar to speak, to talk)
Hoje eu não vendei nada Today I sold nothing. (vender to sell)
Eu me lavei I washed myself.
O cachorro se lavou The dog was washed. (we're actually saying the dog washed itself)
Elas se chamaram "Misty" e "Powder" They called themselves "Misty" and "Powder". (or they said their names were...)
...mas o que aconteceu? ...but what happened? (acontecer to take place, to happen)

The preterit appears at times to coincide with the imperfeito (I used to...), but we'll learn how to tell the two apart in the next lesson. Meanwhile, dig up all of your favorite verbs and try to use them in the past, with both ter and in the preterit!



A. Os Deveres do Roberto Robert's Homework

Let's work your skills. Roberto, a college student, left a piece of paper near the university that seems to be a very poor attempt at writing a story. Among other problems, you strongly believe that this short story should have been written using the past, not the present. The verbs in (parentheses) are a guide and shouldn't be read as part of the story.

O que acontece (acontecer). Falo (falar) com a mulher. Ela lava (lavar) o cachorro e depois se lava(lavar-se). Ela se lava as mãos e os pés*. Chegam (chegar to arrive) algumas amigas. Elas também* se lavam. Elas se lavam as mãos e os pés. O que acontece? Pergunto (perguntar to ask) às mulheres mas não respondem (responder to answer). Eu não entendo (entender to understand) o que acontece.

* (m.) foot, so pés (m., pl.) feet
* também is an extremely useful word. Quer dizer it means also, too or as well

Take the verbs in bold blue and put them into the preterit. Don't forget to use the same subject (don't say the friends I washed myself when you mean to say the friends washed themselves).

Here's the "story" again, without the parentheses:

O que acontece. Falo com a mulher. Ela lava o cachorro e depois se lava. Ela se lava as mãos e os pés. Chegam algumas amigas. Elas também se lavam. Elas se lavam as mãos e os pés. O que acontece? Pergunto às mulheres mas não respondem. Eu não entendo o que acontece.

Your answers should match these (no peeking!):
O que aconteceu. Falei com a mulher. Ela lavou o cachorro e depois se lavou. Ela se lavou as mãos e os pés. Chegaram algumas amigas. Elas também se lavaram. Elas se lavaram as mãos e os pés. O que aconteceu? Perguntei às mulheres mas não responderam. Eu não entendei o que aconteceu.

B. Prova

This is a very quick checkbox quiz. Be sure to pay close attention to the directions, checking the boxes that você quer you want to check.


>>O Mundo Luso
The Portuguese-speaking World

Brasil (m.) Brazil depends on its strong industries, including tourism and manufacturing. Brazil has also cornered the agricultural market on a number of products, producing a large percentage of the world's coffee, oranges, and other fruits. The tourist industry is most evident along the coast, where the beaches in the largest cities are crowded during much of the year. Other attractions include the famous statue of Cristo Redentor Christ the Redeemer standing tall above Rio de Janeiro, the Amazon river, the busy city of São Paulo, and the Iguaçu falls.


>>What Should I Have Learned Here?
Final Review & Key Points

You're now the top "go-to guy" on a few key subjects:

Keep practicing, and, most especially, start reading to improve your Portuguese (with a dictionary in hand, of course). You have already traveled a long way into your new language, and there are many open doors standing in front of you. Take advantage of them, and we'll meet again soon!

ATÉ À PRÓXIMA! Until next time!

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